By Blood We Live Page 48

I was lying on my side on a doubled comforter and pillow, knees drawn up, next to the base of the washbasin, which every now and then I would reach out and touch because my palms were hot and the coldness of the porcelain felt good. I was remembering something Fluff had said. He was always teasing me about not reading books, but one day he said: Reading a book is a dangerous thing, Justine. A book can make you find room in yourself for something you never thought you’d understand. Or worse, something you never wanted to understand. I thought now: He wasn’t just talking about books. He was talking about this. He said: You know the people who dread getting called for jury duty? Big readers. The more you read, the harder it is to condemn. Then he’d frowned and added: Assuming, that is, you’re not reading execrable pap.

Execrable pap. He uses words and I don’t know what they mean, except the context makes it obvious. I missed him, suddenly, really badly. The last couple of nights it had been nice falling asleep and waking up next to him. I felt sad that I’d left him such a short note. I felt sad that I hadn’t told him how much I loved him. I don’t know why it suddenly felt like I was never going to see him again, but it did. I felt it so strongly that if it hadn’t been daylight outside I would’ve jumped in the Jeep and driven back to Las Rosas right then.

Thinking of the Jeep brought up all the unbelievably stupid things I’d done, all the ways I’d fucked this up. The Jeep itself, for starters. Should’ve used a rental. The gun. Fingerprints, sneaker prints. There were probably tyre prints in the spilled oil. I’d driven out of the city breaking every speed limit. In clothes covered in blood. I hadn’t even changed. Just driven to the building, put the Jeep in the underground lot and taken the elevator up to Four. It wasn’t that I was trusting to luck not to run into anyone. I wasn’t trusting to anything. I wasn’t thinking. I was just blind soft heat, and the first violent movement of the new blood finding room in me. If the police acted fast I’d probably left enough evidence for them to be here before sundown tonight. Practically a trail of goddamned footprints in blood. Weirdly, there was a sort of comfort in knowing that even if that were true, there was nothing I could do about it now, and nowhere I could go.

I realised I still had my socks on, so I pulled them off. Underneath the raging sort of enrichment I was deadly tired. Obviously I couldn’t see the daylight, but I could feel the four hours the sun had already been up. We can stay awake, Stonker had explained, but it’s not much fun. It wasn’t. There was a dry, hard ache behind my eyes. It was like the blood couldn’t settle or knit properly until I slept and let it. Until I stopped watching it.

The harder it is to condemn.

That was the thing keeping me awake, of course. Like a snake trying to unknot itself. A blood snake jerking and writhing. It had happened to him. Shouldn’t that make a difference? Didn’t it?

You keep wriggling like that you’re gonna make me come.

I turned and rested my face against the cold of the porcelain. It felt so good. That was something you could say about the world, that some things didn’t change, that if you were hot it was nice to feel something cool against you.

46

Remshi

THERE WERE CALLS to make en route. I have relationships with people such that when I call, they answer. Even in the early hours. They answer because each of them carries a phone on whom I’m the only person who calls. For some humans money and a dedicated phone makes any relationship possible.

First, Olly Maher, of the Amner-DeVere International Private Bank. He wasn’t asleep. He was at a party of what sounded like restrained indulgence. There were glasses clinking. There was music playing. Bowie from the live Ziggy Stardust album. “My Death.” Hardly party music. But this, I reminded myself, was the twenty-first century.

“Norman,” he said.

I was on the hands-free in the VanHome, heading east on the 10. Ontario Mills. Hotels and retail parks. Neoned slabs and slivers that reminded me of the days when there was nothing but dust and sage scrub and giant wildrye and mallards quacking with a kind of dour introversion on the river. You blink, you miss it. A long time ago, in a cave, in the darkness, I’d said: “Why?” and the voice had answered: “Someone must bear witness.”

“Justine Cavell,” I said. “I need to know as soon as she uses any of the cards.” She has half a dozen, and only one of them is Amner-DeVere, but that presents only modest difficulty to Olly.

“No problem,” Olly said.

“You call me anytime, day or night.”

“Day or night?”

I’d be sleeping with the cell right next to my ear.

“Day or night, Olly.”

“Will do.”

Next I called my girl at the FBI, Hannah Willard.

She was asleep.

“Jesus Christ,” she said. But even in the Jesus Christ I could hear her money-self waking up, eyes wide.

“Two people,” I said. “First, Dale Schrutt. Or possibly Wayne Schrutt. In any case Schrutt. U.S. national, now resident in Thailand. Start in Bangkok.”

“Look,” Hannah began.

“Double,” I said. “Start now.”

There was a pause. “This has to be the last time,” she said. She says this every time. She says this for herself. Three or four more jobs like this, she knows, she’ll be able to quit the Bureau for good. She’ll be able to quit doing anything she doesn’t want to do for good. Which, by and large, is all any human wants. Or thinks they want.

“Spell the last name,” she said. Which I did. “You got anything else on this guy?”

“Spent some time in North Vegas. Nickname ‘Pinch.’ Lottery winner sometime within the last ten years. This is easy money, Han.”

“None of it’s easy,” she said. “This isn’t the movies. And the other?”

“Talulla Demetriou.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No.”

“Again?”

“What do you mean, ‘again’?”

I could hear her adjusting her position. Sitting further up in bed. She lives alone. She has a hard blonde face and an impatience with idiots. She’s waiting to be rich enough to really pick and choose.

“I mean I already found her for you. You lost her again?”

My foot came off the gas a little. Images tumbled: the Forum in Rome at night, torchlit, crowded and vivified because Cleopatra had entered the city that afternoon. Three soldiers with their sandals off at a bar’s outside table, drinking cheap wine from wooden cups. A pretty twelve-year-old girl with starved dark eyes huddled in the doorway of a Saffron Hill slum, her legs covered in syphilitic sores. A young woman with her clothes ripped and half her hair pulled out tied to a stake atop a pile of brush and firewood, the lantern-lit faces of a large crowd, some rapt, some jabbering, some bored, the terrible distinctness of teeth and fingers and eyeballs.

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